There is a moment in the video interview with Nick Mowbray when he is talking about "sacrifice" and it becomes obvious he knows full well how close he came to making the ultimate one.
Mowbray, joint CEO of global toy company Zuru, is a driven character and on this guest spot in Steinlager's "New Zealand's Finest" -- a collection of Kiwis who have earned that description – he outlines how he and his brother Mat began Zuru by moving to China when Mowbray was 18.
That opened the door to building what is now a huge global entity – but it also ushered in a huge period of stress during which the brothers readily admit they knew nothing about business, China, the language, the government, how to hire people…. or toys.
The brothers worked hard to build their business from scratch but for Mowbray It ultimately led to illness when at 26 he contacted Crohn's disease, an auto-immune condition where the body starts attacking the bowel.
"I just ignored it as though it wasn't something that I needed to worry about," he says, "and I just continued as I would normally. Then it obviously started having more and more and more of an effect on me.
"I think my personality means that I just won't stop. Probably doesn't matter how unwell I was going to get; I wasn't going to stop. I ignored it for probably those first four or five years until I got to a point where I couldn't ignore it any longer.
"I was really, really unwell. I was doing all my meetings from my bed. Like, I couldn't get up. I had inflammation, my joints were so bad I couldn't walk. I was 67kgs, lost all my hair on my body, had no eyebrows, no hair; inflammation was attacking my body.
"I was basically told that if I didn't have surgery, I'd have cancer and die within a few years. That's when I moved back to New Zealand, and made the decision to have surgery, which probably saved my life. I had my whole bowel removed – my large bowel – and it was pretty bad. They were pulling it out in bits as it was coming out. So, yeah, now I'm good."
Even in extremis in a situation that could have cost him his life, Mowbray's drive and determination emerged undiminished.
"It told me something about myself. I came back to New Zealand because I was at a point where I was so unwell, I had to do something. And I was like I'm not going to work. I'm just going to do nothing… and that lasted about four weeks.
"In life you need something that drives you and some sort of ambition to push you forward – trying to do nothing didn't sit well with me. It didn't matter how unwell I was, I needed something to keep my mind busy... which is when we started Zuru Edge."
Zuru Edge is the Mowbrays' company built around the premise that new age consumers like millennials and Gen Z consumers are demanding new things from brands like sustainability, transparency, authenticity – and consume goods in totally different ways.
So Zuru Edge became the vehicle to disrupt big consumer goods categories and companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever.
"Think nappies, think pet food, think haircare, laundry, and these categories are all dominated by the biggest consumer goods companies in the world," says Mowbray.
"It's been really incredible," he says of Zuru Edge's startling global growth, "because we're harnessing a lot of New Zealand talent now to build this business and to support it around the world. To see the level of talent and to see what we can do on a global stage with New Zealand talent…is really exciting for me.
He says he is acting like a rugby scout or selector, trying to find great young talent: "I'm trying to find the best players and find them really early – and then I'm trying to provide them a platform to succeed.
"I think great leaders, their job is to serve the team. So my job is to create an environment for them to really succeed. I guess that's the whole thesis for us building Zuru Edge – we want to be a people-led company that just happens to make consumer goods, not a consumer goods company run by people. It's a really important distinction, because people come first if you get incredible talent on the team."
For more insight on Nick Mowbray's personal story and the building of the global companies, activate the video embedded in this story.